Wednesday, March 5, 2014

on anxiety

A few months ago, a friend of mine uploaded a picture of herself on instagram and included a long paragraph about her mental health status. This inspired me to write a post about my anxiety problems - I think it's so important for open and honest communication. These things will help erase the negative stigma surrounding mental health and can make it easier for others to reach out for help.

Having said that, I've written and rewritten this post a billion times. It's so hard to talk about and I wanted it to be perfect. Which is ironic, when you consider the source of my mental health issues.
But here I am, writing a post about my mental health. This isn't easy, but I just wanna share where I'm at.

I've known for awhile that I have an anxiety disorder. A few years ago I was sexually assaulted and I spiraled into a dizzy, exhausting few weeks of excruciating anxiety. I had panic attack after panic attack. Although this wasn't my first encounter with anxiety, this was the first time I'd felt like it was unmanageable. So I went to counselling - and sure enough. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

So over the past few years I've had ups and downs with my anxiety - learning that I had an anxiety disorder was liberating. I met others who had anxiety spectrum issues, and I learned how to manage anxiety.

I began exploring where I think my anxiety started. I think it started in childhood, as so many things do. I've always put such a massive pressure on myself to be perfect. When you look at me as a person, you probably wouldn't notice that I'm a perfectionist. And I'm probably not, by traditional definitions. But I have this massive, unhealthy desire for everyone to think I'm perfect. I feel like my worth comes from how close to perfect I am.

Over the last few months, as I've been exploring life outside of Christianity, I've also come up to a massive identity crisis. If I'm not a Christian, which was previously the only thing I would use to define myself, then who am I? Add that crisis to the hardest academic year I've ever had and some issues in some personal relationships... you see where this is going!

In December, I had the most overwhelming mental breakdown of my life. I felt like everything was meaningless, I was worthless and I felt so so SO stressed out by my life. I became a bit of a zombie through exams and then went home for Christmas. And I continued to have panic attacks over the holiday.

When I came back in January, I knew I needed to head back to counselling. And so I have. And I am on the path to managing my anxiety. I think anxiety is part of the human experience - I doubt very much that I will ever be completely anxiety free. But I am in control of my anxiety, not the other way around.

Probably should have been anxious to be sitting 1500 feet above Chicago!

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